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James Gruber, PhD

Antioch University New England

Integration of my teaching in the Environmental Studies Department and my professional work in building sustainable communities allows me to bring to the classroom real world experience. This symbiosis between my teaching (including the fields of environmental economics and policy and finance) and my consulting and applied research work in numerous community projects enriches both areas of my professional work. My consulting and community assistance work focuses on engaging people in the process of creating environmentally healthy, culturally rich, and economically strong schools and community through leadership training, environmental education, and applied research. My work in the classroom seeks to draw upon this work to enhance the work in the classroom.

My professional goals are to continue to direct the Environmental Studies PhD program at AUNE, teach, research, write, and provide assistance in community conservation and resource management. I also plan to continue my US and international research and consulting that focuses on environmental policy, climate change adaptations, resource conservation, and sustainable development work. This work, that frequently includes Antioch students, is based upon a strong support for and belief in the value of citizen participation, community education, and effective public-private partnerships between local communities and their citizens, institutions, and businesses. My most recent research and publications have focused on enhancing climate change adaptation through university-community partnerships and community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) strategies for sustainably managing common pool resources (or the commons).

Educational History

  • PhD, University of Zagreb, Croatia
  • MPA, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
  • MS, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • PE Licensed Professional Civil Engineer (New Hampshire)

Teaching Statement

The Department of Environmental Studies educates visionary, pragmatic leaders in a collaborative interdisciplinary setting that is founded on academic excellence and the principles of environmental justice and sustainability. My teaching philosophy fully embraces this mission.

Integration of my teaching in the Environmental Studies Department and my community service work, professional consulting, and research that supports sustainable development allows me to bring to the classroom real world experiences and gives me the opportunity to expose students, through their course projects, to real world experiences. My community work can best be described as engaging people in the process of creating environmentally healthy, culturally rich, and economically strong schools and community through leadership training, environmental education, and applied research.2 This work is based on a strong support for and belief in the value of citizen participation, community education, and effective public-private partnerships between local communities and their citizens, institutions, and businesses. My teaching strives to draw upon this community work to enhance my teaching and the work of my students in the class room.

Specifically, I have enjoyed the opportunity to teach and mentor a broad range of graduate students in environmental policy, environmental economics, and environmental leadership/administrative/management skills. It has been very rewarding to see these students take on important community environmental leadership roles and succeed at making a substantive difference in their community or country. The curriculum I develop for my courses seeks to raise both the knowledge and the critical skills needed for these students to succeed in their future careers.

My approach to raise the knowledge and critical skills that I am aware are needed in resource management, sustainable development, climate change and conservation related professions is grounded in my previous 30 years of formal and informal teaching, mentoring, research, and community work. I draw upon and embrace the following personally developed learning guidelines for teaching and mentoring students.

  • Students should be able to apply newly acquired academic knowledge and skills to real and current issues that matter.
  • It is essential that students in my courses learn both scholarship and practitionership skills. Both are essential.
  • Student should work in teams. In the non-academic world, people who work together are usually more effective.
  • Provide students real applications and relevant case studies.
  • There needs to be a safe but challenging learning environment in the classroom.
  • Support open class processes where all ideas are welcome and then debated and distilled.
  • Model and embrace the group learning processes rather than the pure expert model that focuses on downloading information.
  • Focus on critical thinking and decision making rather than memorization.
  • Encourage the asking of probing questions!both the critical Why? or How? As well as the Why Not?

It is important to point out that all of these teaching and mentoring principles are independent of technology and specific course delivery format. We all know that technology and delivery formats are rapidly changing. However, I believe we can keep the heart of what we do and, through hard work, appropriately and effectively utilize the new technology. This includes on-line and hybrid courses when appropriate for the content and learning skills.

I believe that my teaching should provide content, application, experiential reflection, and an opportunity for students to reflect on and enhance their environmental leadership skills. In order for our students to be scholars, practitioners, and environmental leaders, we need to also raise the awareness and knowledge of our students in how to practice adaptive environmental leadership. It will then be up to them to choose if they wish to practice these leadership skills. The following list summarizes my principles of environmental adaptive leadership skills that I try to communicate and at times integrate into my teaching and mentoring of our students.

  • Change requires appealing to the hearts as well as the minds of our community members. This is where you work the adaptive change.
  • People do not welcome change and it may be risky to the messenger!particularly if it impacts or threatens their currently held world view. Communication and trust building is essential.
  • Practicing adaptive environmental leadership means learning how to listen to not just what people are saying but their underlying fears and prejudices as well as their hopes and dreams. This does not mean you have to agree with them. But you need to be able to listen and understand.
  • Practicing adaptive leadership means building community capital (social, human, economic) in order to support sustainably managing natural capital (the ecological commons).
  • Practicing adaptive leadership mean giving up control and letting go of outcomes. This means (if there is good information provided through an effective, inclusive, and transparent process) that you need to trust the outcomes. You need to trust that they will make wise and beneficial decisions.
  • Finally, I believe that effectively practicing adaptive environmental leadership means that the group or the local society that you are supporting builds its own community capacity and they no longer need you. They go forth on their own. You serve as a transitional vessel.

And, finally, my teaching philosophy embraces and values the opportunity for my personally learning and growth as a member of a classroom, part of a mentoring/learning process with another student, or working with other faculty members. My teaching philosophy views all that we do together in the Environmental Studies Department (students, staff, and faculty), is part of a collaborative learning process that builds our collective capacity to work towards a more equitable and sustainable society.

Resource Management: An Application of Q Methodology for Forest Projects, Journal of Conservation Gruber J. S., Characteristics of Effective and Sustainable Community Based Natural and Society, 9(2): 159-171, 2011

Gruber J. S., Key Principles of Community-Based Natural Resource Management: A synthesis and interpretation of identified effective approaches for managing the commons, print version of Environmental Management, January 2010. 45:52-66

Gruber, J. S., Perspectives of Effective and Sustainable Community Based Natural Resource Management: An Application of Q Methodology. Presented at the 15th Annual International Sustainable Development Research Conference, Utrecht University, The Netherlands 5- 8 July 2009

Gruber, J. S., Key Principles of Community-Based Natural Resource Management: A synthesis and interpretation of identified effective approaches for managing the commons. Presented at the International Association for the Study of the Commons, 12th Biennial Conference held in Cheltenham, England, July 2008.

Gruber J. S., Schmidt M. Cabot C, and Morrissey M., CTAP: A Guide for Community Driven Regional Land Use and Transportation Planning, New Hampshire Department of Transportation, 2008, 52 p.p.

Gruber J., Building Sustainable Communities Through New Partnerships of Central and Local Governments: Lessons Learned from Eastern Europe and New England: 2000 International Conference on Sustainable Development, Environmental Conditions, and Public Management published in the book Sustainable Development, Environmental Conditions, and Public Management, National Academy of Public Administration (US) and National Institute for Research Advance (Japan), Tokyo, Japan, 2002, p. 264-286

Utrecht, The Netherlands, Perspectives of Effective and Sustainable Community Based Natural Resource Management: An Application of Q Methodology, Taking Up the Global Challenge, 15th Annual International Sustainable Development Research Conference, July 2009

Oaxaca, Mexico, The Role of Social Capital in Enhancing Community Development: Examples from New Hampshire and Vermont, November, 2008

Zagreb, Croatia, Identification of Characteristics of Effective and Sustainable Community Based Natural Resource Management Initiatives Using Q-Sort Methodology, R. Boskovic Institute, July, 2008

Cheltenham, England, Key Principles of Community-Based Natural Resource Management, Governing Shared Resources: Connecting Local Experiences to Global Challenges, Conference by the International Association for the Study of the Commons, July, 2008.

Vilnius, Lithuania, Establishing a Community Foundation for the Benefit of a Community, Baltic American Partnership Program, May, 2002

Tokyo, Japan, Building Sustainable Communities Through New Partnerships of Central and Local Governments: Lessons Learned from Eastern Europe and New England: International Conference on Sustainable Development, Environmental Conditions, and Public Management, National Academy of Public Administration (US) and National Institute for Research Advance (Japan), 2000

International Environmental-Social Policy Assistance Work
Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia (2000-2003): U.S. Project Director for a two- year participatory planning and community philanthropy initiative as part of the Baltic American Partnership social capacity building project in the Baltic States. Supported by the Open Society Fund and U.S.A.I.D., this pan-Baltic initiative worked to increase civic engagement and philanthropy at the community level. It included trainings, and assistance to national support organizations and pilot sites in each of the three countries.

Bulgaria (1994-1998): U.S. Project Manager for a four-year national solid waste environmental policy development and implementation project under a contract with the Institute for Sustainable Communities. Partners included the Bulgarian Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Regional Planning and Construction, and the U.S. EPA. The goal of the project was to assist the country in developing a national solid waste policy and supporting national legislation through a multi-level, open policy development process. The process included developing a series of trainings, seminars, and conferences for Ministry staff, local government, and other stakeholders; developing workbooks and manuals; providing technical and policy assistance; assisting with public hearings; supporting their development of local plans and model local ordinances; organizing and conducting a Ministry delegation seminar in the U.S., supporting the drafting of a national policy and the introduction of new national solid waste legislation. After passage of national legislation (1996), a national training program was organized for local government implementation of the legislation. This project required ten visits to Bulgaria over four years.

Macedonia and Albania (1997): Advisor to local and national officials in Macedonia and Albania regarding a bilateral strategic planning process for solid waste management within the watershed of Lake Ohrid. This study tour/consultation visit was sponsored by the Institute for Sustainable Communities, Vermont

Croatia (2005/2009): Lecturer for courses on Environmental Policy and Communication, Post-Graduate Environmental Management Study, University of Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia.

Mexico (2008): Research in Oaxaca on sustainable forestry management through a community-based natural resource management approach

  • Member, World Conservation Union, Commission on Environmental, Economic, and Social Policy (CEESP) and the Theme on Governance, Equity, and Rights (TGER)
  • Member, International Association for the Study of the Commons
  • Member, Nominating Committee, New Hampshire Audubon Society
  • Member, Vermont Act 200 (Growth Bill) Legislative Committee
  • Executive Committee Member, Upper Valley – Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission
James Gruber headshot

Affiliate Faculty,

Environmental Studies

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